Home Health Filling the gap in oral care for the elderly

Filling the gap in oral care for the elderly


With a quarter of people over the age of 65 living with complete tooth loss and more than 65% of them reporting eating difficulties, the Australian Dental Association is urging the government to make a higher commitment to oral care in national nursing homes.

A recent Australian oral study found that 32% of people aged 55-74 and 25% of people aged 75+ have caries without treatment; 51% of people aged 55-74 and 69% of people aged 75+ have gum disease; and, if gum disease was not treated, it led to complete tooth loss for 20% of people aged 75+; 22% of people aged 55–74 and 46% of people aged 75+ have inadequate dentition (less than 21 teeth).

“These data show that many older Australians do not have the proper oral health that they should be,” said Dr. Stephen Lew, vice president of the ADA, “and if they are one of the country’s 190,000 residents who are in the care of the elderly, the lack of oral care in nursing homes is a key factor ”.

Malnutrition, social exclusion and deteriorating health are among the serious consequences of not maintaining a healthy mouth – and this is never the case with older Australians caring for the elderly, reminds the ADA NSW.

“The Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly was clear about oral health problems in the care of the elderly. At ADA NSW, we know that the National Dental Care Package is absolutely affordable, with a new schedule of benefits for senior dentists – an example of how government can help. We can improve the quality of life of vulnerable Australians in boarding schools. The dental industry is committed to working with the government and the elderly care sector to address this issue, ”said ADA NSW President Dr. Michael Jonas.

In the run-up to the election – and in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Human Care – the ADA NSW office calls:

Involvement of the doctor for the oral cavity: Elderly care providers should engage an oral practitioner who can provide services to people receiving care according to the requirements of their assessment or care plan (before July 1, 2024). There are researched models of care, such as the Senior Smiles ™ program, that demonstrate the medical, social, and economic benefits of improved oral hygiene services provided to the elderly. These models of care are ready to expand through a variety of programs to meet a variety of needs in settings ranging from large metropolitan RACFs to small multi-purpose facilities in rural and remote areas.

Better access to health services: Establishment of a payment scheme for dentists for the elderly (before January 1, 2023). Fund dental services needed to maintain a functional dentition (as defined by the World Health Organization) with a minimum of 20 teeth, and to maintain and replace dentures. Without proper funding, access to oral services is impossible for many older Australians.

Quality standards for the elderly: The Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health and Care for the Elderly they should be urgently reviewed and eventually amended (by 31 December 2022) to demand a commitment to best oral health practices. Elderly care providers, both RACF and home care providers, should be required to meet oral care standards.

Image: © stock.adobe.com/au/REDPIXEL


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